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Hey Peter Dutton, here are the real reasons few Australian retailers sell Australia Day merchandise

In response to Opposition Leader Peter Dutton’s call yesterday for a boycott of Woolworths over its decision to stop stocking Australia Day merchandise, here is why we no longer stock Australia Day merchandise in my own shops.

As a retailer, I need to offer merchandise that is profitable and fits the narrative of my local business. Australia Day merchandise does not sell like it used to. Given what deep discount stores have done in this space, the margin we can achieve is small, insufficient to cover retail space and labour costs.

The last time we sold it a few years ago our gross profit from all Australia Day products sold was under $100 with the space alone costing double that and the labour involved costing $100 meaning we lost over $200 on the ‘season’.

For any of our customers wanting to celebrate the day by sending a card, we have an a big and awesome range of cards designed and printed in Australia that are perfect for this, including:

Most Australia Day merchandise is made overseas, usually China, which contradicts our shop local narrative – we preference Australian made wherever we can.

Imagine how Peter Dutton may feel when he discovered that we are not opening on Australia Day. We haven’t done for years. Sales revenue is typically low on the day and labour rates are up as it’s a public holiday. Years ago we decided to close and are grateful for the day off.

If Peter Dutton wants Aussies to boycott Woolworths because it no longer stocks low margin overseas made Australia Day merchandise that does not pay its way, he should call for a boycott of plenty of other Aussie retailers like me who made the same decision as Woolworths management.

Maybe Peter Dutton should have done his research on Australia Day merchandise prior to shooting his most off.

I know I am not alone in no longer stocking Australia Day merchandise in my newsagencies.

  • Sales of Australia Day merchandise have been in decline for 10+ years.
  • It is challenging to find Australian made Australia Day merchandise that can compete with the cheap China stock deep discount stores carry.
  • The interest in Australia Day merchandise among shoppers has waned. It’s not a profitable ‘season’.
  • The current day itself, January 26, is problematic.

Now before people jump on that, consider that it was not long ago that the day itself was on a different date, as SBS (and many other outlets) reports:

January 26 is problematic because it celebrates the date of the landing of the first fleet. As the Australian Museum notes, Captain Cook was told to gain the consent of the ‘Natives’ when making his claim of possession. He failed to do this, he failed to obtain permission from any Aboriginal people as required by the instructions he was given. While plenty of Australians dispute this, the evidence readily available tells us otherwise. Read the evidence at the Australian Museum website.

I think Peter Dutton is chasing this issue because his mates at some media outlets will amplify his shouting and pouting when we would all be better off celebrating all things Australian while being respectful of the messy road that got us to where we are today.

Social responsibility

Join the discussion

  1. Paul

    We are lucky we live in Australia because you can have your say on this and many other issues – try that in some countries .I support Australia Day and always will


  2. Mark Fletcher

    I think you missed the point of the post Paul.


  3. Paul

    It’s a long winded way to say im not stocking Oz Day merch isn’t it


  4. Mark Fletcher

    Paul, it’s explaining the commercial reason many retailers have not stocked Australia Day product for years – it’s not financially viable. Call it longwinded if you want. No one forced you to read it.


  5. Paul

    thanks Mark for the advice on what to or not to read but i find it tells me more about someone than often we don’t know , I read all types of stuff and this is a small part of that, anyway lets hope you all enjoy your AUSTRALIA DAY holiday


  6. Mark Fletcher

    Paul I didn’t provide any advice on what to read or not read. I still can’t figure out what you disagree with in this post that explains the commercial reasons plenty of retailers no longer stock Australia Day products. Anyway, take care. I’m working Jan 26.


  7. Peter R

    I agree with Mark’s post on this issue.

    Further I will not discuss the issue with customers and discourage my staff from doing the same. I will state if pushed that I have no obvious emails offering product from suppliers for Australia Day this year and in the past sale of product has never paid us for the effort. All of this is true.

    The reason for this response is already I have noticed the issue has been weaponised and has become toxic. If you do not support the sale of product, you will be forcefully told you are unaustralian and you don’t belong here as a citizen of this great country which you are now deliberately denigrating by your thoughts and actions.

    A similar attitude to what appeared that appeared in the recent referendum.


  8. MARK R

    Lets stop playing games !

    The decision by Woolies not to stock Australia Day merch has nothing to do with sales, but everything to do with pushing their woke agenda.

    Woolies provided substantial funding to the Yes campaign referendum, that worked out well didn’t it ?
    This is just another stunt by those who don’t believe Australia day should be on Jan 26th or even exist at all .

    The best way to resolve this issue is to have another referendum only then will we see the true support for Australia Day as it stands , no one should be afraid of a referendum. Recent polls indicate a move to change the date or remove it , is not supported by the wider community .

    I can recall Peter R taking a similar stance on the voice issue saying if he expressed his views he would be roundly criticised for being un- Australian if those are your views you should be able to express them without fear or favour, even though your and Mark’s views are in the monitory.

    The claim that Cook was to gain permission from the local inhabitants to take “possession” is playing semantics with what was said 250 years ago , could Cook and any of his entourage understood the Aboriginal dialect ? If he could and the Aboriginals refused the request to take possession, would Cook have then just got back on his ship and sail away never to return ?


    • Graeme Day

      Australia Day is US – I am- You are -We are – as the song goes. any smart retailer would support it for image and a future.The public don’t geive a damn about our profits however the Goodwill and playing Aussies would cement with them…plus once we all got together and promoted a chosen same theme – under our banner -we could then (with excellent sales) go back to hte suppliers demanding better deals next year or No Go we’ll source from elsewhere. We then have a year to look at getting together another annual flag waving promtion that would be ongoing for the newsagent in the public eye.

      Not doing Australia Day is wimping out!


      • Mark Fletcher

        Graeme, the post does not say don’t support Australia Day. Rather, I share how it’s been a commercial failure. People don’t want flags and cliche junk.

        On the plus once we all got together call. It won’t happen in the channel, ever, not now. You’ll never get 2,800 retailers to agree on a chosen theme. They never have, not themselves.


        • Graeme Day

          Mark,I didn’t state that you were not supporting Aussie Day I sated it would be great if we all did.
          Of course not all newsagents would be in a single promotion..unless it was a margin increase from some suppliers etc ..that’s a joke Joyce.However you mention it there is nothing to stop a Group such as news Xpress -Nextra or the like doing what I stated and using the outcome for gain.It’s up to us to turn the negative into a positive. Aussie! Ausssie! Aussie! could be revived…if we tried.please reread I don’t refer to you just gave my opinion about Australia Day and what we are not doing.
          Being positive is a great part of Retail.


  9. Michael

    Another ignorant comment from Mark R. I bet you’re a scared old white man. My dad is a senior Woolworths manager. The decision was made ages ago, based on lack of profit.


    • Mark R

      Michael your comments directed at me says more about you than me.


  10. Mark Fletcher

    Mark R, you are wrong. The Woolworths decision is based on commercial data, as is the decision I made for my shops and as I explain in the post.

    I checked out your Tanunda business website and Facebook page and see no pitch for Australia Day products.


  11. MARK R

    So Mark you have inside information as to the real reason Woolies dropped Australia Day merch , what rubbish you have no more idea than anyone else .

    The fact that we didn’t promote Australia Day merch, again, has nothing to do with you , we didn’t need to promote it because we sold out and could have sold more, demand was high .

    The statement you made about Captain Cook are laughable .
    You also mentioned Peter Dutton 4 or 5 times I couldn’t care less for your Woke, Leftist views


  12. Amanda

    We last sold Australia Day products in 2019 and we sold $350.00 worth and made $120 in profit. It was a waste of time and money. In our regional town it’s not a retail thing and no Mr Mark R whoever you are this is nothing to do with whokeness or politics.


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